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My Road Back to Squats

Coming back to something you were once very good at, but now, you are starting again from scratch is never easy.

Once upon a time I was a full-time personal trainer and my whole identity was wrapped up in fitness, strength and being strong. So you can imagine how humbling it is to be writing a blog post about how pleased with yourself you were today because you did barbell back squats for the first time in over 6 months, and you managed 40kg on the bar for full, deep sets of 10!

I would have been happy with any number, but I was expecting to get 5 or 6 reps. So you can imagine getting 10 reps, and not to failure! It’s a huge win for me, and I’m excited and fuck it, that’s cool!

About two or three years ago, when I still had a 9 – 5, I attempted exactly this lift with exactly this weight and my back severely cramped at the bottom of the squat and it really, really hurt. It also scared the living daylights out of me, and I didn’t attempt back squats for a very long time afterwards. I was literally afraid of them. Afraid of squats. Isn’t that just so sad?

I mention my 9 – 5 job because I think that my back may have cramped like that because I was sitting down for so many hours a day. There may not have been a predictable reason. But I do think that sitting at a desk all day is the devil! It weakens the posterior chain like nothing else.

I don’t think that everyone needs to barbell squat, and certainly not everyone needs to barbell squat with a heavy weight. You can and should if you want to and if you can complete the lift safely. Squats are important, but there are so many variations, that unless you’re a strength athlete (i.e. a powerlifter, olympic lifter, a few other niche sports perhaps), you don’t have to put a heavy load across your back and move up and down. You just don’t. Don’t listen to any internet trainers or meatheads at your gym that tell you that you do. For most people, a few sets of goblet squats or even just body weight squats interspersed in your workouts are sufficient.

Why do I do squats? Because I like them. They’re a full body movement that takes strength and skill to execute well, they’re a big calorie burner, they “tone” (hehe), and they keep your back and your legs strong. I think foundational movements like the squat, the deadlift and the push up are important to achieve and maintain competency because you can’t complete them without a strong and healthy back, strong legs, knees, hips, core. If health is wealth, you have nothing if you don’t have a healthy back and good, strong legs to take you everywhere you want to go. Squats will help you keep stay strong, healthy, resilient and moving well.

What about if you can’t back squat? What if you have an injury or a limitation that makes barbell squatting problematic? You can do bodyweight squats, squats holding dumb bells, goblet squats, curtsy squats, box squats. Probably other squats too, haha. There are also a myriad of other awesome leg exercises as well. If your mobility and range of motion are limited (meaning, you can’t sit deeply into your squat and maintain good posture), then I actually advise you NOT to squat with a barbell at all and just work on increasing your range of motion safely. So do bodyweight squats, goblet squats and you can also squat to a box at your target height, and over time, your range of motion and competency at the movement will improve. I strongly recommend getting a good trainer to help you when or if you decide to graduate to a barbell. Remember, you don’t have to squat with a heavy barbell on your back. That’s probably the biggest squatting mistake I see in the gym day in, day out: people with low skill and poor range of motion, squatting with loaded barbells and no safety rails or usually without even a spotter.

As for me, I’m looking forward to building my squat up over the next few months from 40kg. I’ll probably be satisfied when I can manage 75 – 85kg for 6+ reps. I won’t be using rep ranges lower than that. I’m not obsessed anymore with hitting a target triple digit number. Probably in the new year I’ll switch to my true favourite lift, possibly of all time, my beloved front squat!

Do you like squats? What’s your favourite squat?

 
Health is wealth my friends, I’m treasuring mine.

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You Are Special & Why Cookie Cutter Plans Don’t Work

When we wanna get fit, often it seems like the most obvious thing is emulate the person whose results we want, the person we want to look like.

We want to know what they eat and how they train, and we want to do exactly whatever “secret” it is they do, so we can look like them too.

So you follow their Facebook page or Instagram and read everything they say, maybe you buy their workout plan or diet and you copy what it is they do, or what they say they do.

But you don’t get the same result. Often, you don’t even get a similar result.

The reason is that cookiecutter plans don’t work. One-size-fits-all fitness is a myth. Let me explain. The foundations of being fit, strong and looking amazing are more or less the same for everyone, that is true. But we each have unique genetics that give us unique strengths, weaknesses, individual biochemistry, individual anthropometry, muscle belly size, length, etc.

Guess what? It means we’re all unique! Your mum was right, you ARE a special little snowflake after all!

speshul snowflake

Well, OK.. you are and you aren’t! Because you’re a special snowflake, you can’t just take some random workout and expect it to transform you into someone else who also just happens to do that work, i.e: your favourite fitness model. She probably doesn’t even do that workout at all, hate to say it. You need something designed for you to get you to greatness. On the otherhand, because you are NOT a special snowflake, you you can ditch all the gimmicks, magic bullets and quick fixes, because if you haven’t realized, they don’t work. The basics work. Ignore the ads, propaganda and shameless self-promotion. Do what has been proven to work, and that is:

1. Lift weights at least 2x per week, 3 – 4 days a week of lifting is ideal. Focus on multi-joint movements, preferably with freeweights. Lift “heavy” for no more than 10 reps per set. Things like squats, deadlifts & lunges for the lower body and overhead presses, rows and push ups for the upper body. Use single joint/isolation exercises and machines only for parts of your body you want to pay a little extra attention to, and do so AFTER your squats, lunges and presses, etc.

2. Clean up your diet. Looking “toned” is a function of muscular development and optimized body fat levels. You can’t lose body fat with a crappy diet, so clean up your diet! Focus on lean proteins and vegetables at every meal and watch your carb intake. Don’t eat too much. It isn’t much more complicated than that.

3. Do a bit of cardio, not too much. Keep it to under 1 hour per day, at a maximum! If you’re doing more cardio than this, you need to re-examine your diet. You cannot out train a poor diet. Personally, I start out clients with 15 minutes of cardio per day and I don’t increase it unless we stop getting results. I never prescribe more than 30 minutes a day. If we hit a plateau we re-examine the diet and change up the cardio protocol. Use cardio as a tool for weightloss wisely. More is not “more”.

The above should be the foundation of any training and nutrition plan. Beyond this, your individual goals, preferences, genetics and athletic background need to be considered in order to customise a plan to help get you to your best, your pinnacle. So there may be tweaks to your diet, there may be a certain focus on a part of your body you want to work on, certain movements, you may have injuries you need to work around – it all depends on your individual needs, and what you need to get you to the pinnacle of fitness.

It’s going to be something different than what I need.

It’s going to be different again to what the guy two treadmills over from you needs.

It’s going to probably be different than your training buddy and your favourite fitness model.

You can not all follow the same training and diet plan and get the same result. It doesn’t work that way.

What program has gotten you the best results?

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Your Body Is Awesome & You Should Throw a Party!

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What a peaceful and beautiful thought it is, to be content with what you have and rejoice in the way things are? Granted, I understand that for many it might be hard to truly feel this way, and sadly, they may have a legitimate reason to feel that way… but we all have something to be thankful for. All of us. Something, someone, something positive in our lives, something good. In my darkest times, it has always been helpful to remember what I do have, always.

And slowly, steadily I have been lucky enough to come to feel that way about my body. I say “lucky” without a shred of irony, since in our society, with the constant message that you’re flawed, fat, unworthy, you’re lucky if you can shake it all off in any meaningful way and actually begin to feel good about yourself.

Instead of focusing on what you don’t like and what you want to fix, what about if you were content with what you had and you celebrated your amazing body and your good health and all the things your strong healthy body enables you to do?

What about if every day you thanked your body and felt grateful for your health and wrote down 3 things that were awesome about you, how do you think your attitude might change? I bet you’d start to feel happy and inspired and joyful, and learn to love your physical self. You might even throw a party and “rejoice”… (remember to invite me, please! hehe).

Nothing about you is lacking. You are good and you are enough. You have everything you need to be awesome and you already are; every day you get better and better. Each healthy meal, each training session, leads to a better you.

What do you like the most about your body?

What’s your best feature?

Whats the coolest thing you can do? Badass bench press number? Can you do the splits? Feel free to brag a little in the comments! It can be anything. I wanna hear it! Just a reminder, it doesn’t have to remotely be something that would make you “good” competitively, personal goals and triumphs, no matter how humble they may seem, are perfect. Please share!

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The New Years Resolution Post: Four Tips To Smashing Your Fitness Goals This Year

So, you know it’s a cliche. And you know you made the same resolution last year and for whatever reason you didn’t keep it.

But again, in for 2014, you want to make your health and fitness a top priority. Congratulations, that’s a brilliant a very rewarding goal. After all, without our health, what do we have?

Ask yourself, why is it going to be different this year? Why will this year be the one you actually make a permanent lifestyle change?

I don’t believe it’s “wanting it badly enough”, I think that’s BS. If you earnestly tried very hard to lose weight and get fit, and someone smugly responds that you obviously don’t want it badly enough, you have my permission to tell them to go fuck themselves. That’s right. Flipping them the bird is optional, but I recommend doing that too.

I think when we express a deep desire to be healthier, to lose weight, to be better, we certainly do want it badly enough. But often, we’re just not well-equipped with the knowledge, with a strategy and with the “how” to make it happen. So I’m going to share with you a few simple ways you can make sure your 2014 resolution to be fitter and healthier is one that is going to stick with you the entire year and beyond.

  1. Set a nutritional goal that won’t leave you feeling punished, deprived and starved.
    If you eat fries, pasta and ice cream every day and declare that January 1st, you’ll eat nothing but salad, grilled fish and broccoli, I can almost guarantee that by January 31st, you’ll be back to eating those same burgers and ice cream and whatever else – and probably with a vengeance!
    What to do instead: Choose a more moderate approach. That might mean eating “normally” every day, but committing to having a salad for lunch or dinner. Initially, you might want to simply commit to cutting out soft drinks and hot chips every day. Have ice cream only once or twice per week, in a reasonable portion. You’d be astounded at what a huge impact these simple changes can have on your health and waistline. As time goes by and this becomes routine for you, you can step up your game and make further changes to improve your daily eating habits.
    perfect is bullshit
  2. Set a reasonable and very doable exercise goal. 
    Deciding that, as of January 1st, from doing no exercise per day, you’re going to be in the gym 2 hours a day and do a thousand crunches and a  zillion squats, because you read that’s what your favourite movie star did to get ready for her recent action flick (or your favourite fitspo girl on IG does this, or your friend, or whoever), is naive and unrealistic. We both know this is a pie in the sky strategy and isn’t going to work long term, if at all.
    What to do instead: Choose a  reasonable activity goal. For a beginner, that might mean 20 – 30 minutes a day of activity. That’s more than enough for someone who was previously sedentary. After a month or two of consistency, you can step up your efforts. Exercise is extremely important for good health, but too much can be counter-productive and unsustainable. Anything too time consuming and elaborate is probably going to last a month or two maximum. Adopt an approach you can turn into a lifestyle, doing things that make you feel energised and that you enjoy with a reasonable time commitment. As you get fitter, you can and should up the intensity.
  3. Find a support network.
    A support network might be a friend that has similar goals to you that you can begin your journey with, it can be starting a blog or online journal in a weight loss community filled with likeminded individuals, or it might be hiring a trainer than you stay accountable to and helps you design a good strategy. There are lots of ways to find support these days, you might try one option, or you might want to try them all to give yourself every advantage to success. Try everything and keep the stuff that works and you find helpful. Certainly in the first month or two, having a friend in the gym can help with the intimidation some people feel when they start going to the gym. If you don’t have someone, pay a trainer. It’s worth it if it gets you in there and has you doing the right things.
  4. If you fall off the wagon, get right back on!
    Don’t stop. We all have our ups and downs, but the difference between people that get fit and make it a lifestyle and those that don’t is quitting. Don’t be a quitter. There will be days that you ate too much or you missed a workout, but who cares? Pick yourself up and try again. This isn’t a pass or fail, one shot exam. Fitness is a way of life. It’s a journey. It’s always a work in progress no matter what level you’re at. In case you missed it, perfection is bullshit. Some days you’ll have more energy than others, some days you won’t be motivated to work out, some days you are just dying to have that piece of cake and whether you have it or not, ultimately doesn’t matter as long as you keep going in the right direction.

Remember, the successful strategy is not the “perfect” strategy, rather it’s the one you can  stick to long term and incorporate into your lifestyle. Stop trying for perfect. Perfect is bullshit.

My goals for this year are to achieve a 300lbs deadlift. I’d like to be more kind, gracious and patient in all matters. To stop dropping F-bombs… gah! So uncouth and unladylike! And drink less expensive cocktails… they’re a wallet and a fat loss killer and they have got to GO!!! I’d also like to get serious about yoga this year and incorporate that into my routine. And meditate.

What are your goals for 2014?

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The 7 Habits of People Who Achieve Their Fitness Goals

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1. Set Goals, Make Them Achievable.
Rule number one of achieving your goals is actually sitting down to think about them and setting them! Fit people don’t work out – they train with a purpose. That purpose may be getting into a pair of jeans in a smaller size, it might be improving their deadlift, achieving a faster 5k time, or a goal physique. It can be any goal that gives their physical training structure and purpose.

They don’t just go through the motions or just do “whatever”. The other important part of this is that the goals they set are achievable and they give themselves a realistic timeframe to get there. They are consistent and patient!

You might even consider hiring a trainer or a coach to help you set your goals, workout what you should be doing to get there and how long it should take you. Most goals take at least 3 months of consistency to see major changes, often it takes longer. Also, making this a lifestyle and real excellence in any physical endeavour is something you never stop working on. Set goals, work hard, be patient!

2. Fit People Keep Going.
Everyone falls of the wagon at one time or another, either with their diet or with training. The big difference between fit people and people who just want to be fit is that the fit ones get back on plan and keep going.

Remind yourself that this is a marathon, not a sprint. To be really fit, you have to make it a lifestyle. It’s not a short term program you stick to for a month or two and rebound back to your old ways (and old body) when you’re “done”. You’re never “done”! 🙂

Fit people are also consistent, but realise there is no such thing as perfection. Forget eating perfectly all the time, eat well 90% of the time and you will look and feel great. There is no magic workout, no exercise that changes everything in a week. There is only consistent diet and exercise. Slip ups happen. They aren’t the end of your fitness journey, unless you let them be.

Sorry if that doesn’t sound sexy or not what you want to hear, but that is the truth. The sooner you embrace a long term approach, the sooner you will see your best and fittest self emerge.

3. Do Something Active Every Day
Fit people do something almost every day. They follow their program. They walk a lot. They ride bikes. They try different classes. They hit the gym. They get in there and do what they have to do each day to achieve the goals they set. It’s one day at a time. All the little things you do each and every day add up to a big cumulative result in the long term. Your body craves movement, move it!

4. Work Harder on Your Weak Links, Make Them Your Strengths
Lacking upper body strength? Pull, press and push until your upper body becomes your strength. Are you inflexible and unable to do certain movements effectively (or at all!) because of it? Stretch every day. Schedule a regular yoga class. Limber up, baby! You will improve. You will be better. And stick to improving things you’re bad at tenaciously enough? They inevitably become your strengths. I’ve seen it time and time again in both myself and in my clients. The human body is an incredible organism that will adapt to the stresses you impose upon it, and the results can be downright astounding.

5. Trust The Process, Commit, Don’t Program Hop.
One of the biggest mistakes and inhibitors of progress is self-doubt, not trusting the process and “program hopping”. A program hopper is someone who cannot or will not stick to something long enough to see any significant result. They typically stick to a diet regimen or workout program for 4 weeks or even less and that just isn’t long enough to see a big result. Most people need to be consistent for at least 3 months before real changes and improvements take place.

6. Make All Main Meals Protein Based, Fill Up On Veges.
Active people have higher protein requirements because their bodies need protein to build and repair, especially if you lift weights. Your body craves exercise and movement, but a rigorous training program also puts a lot of wear and tear on your joints, muscles and tendons. If you aren’t eating whole, unprocessed foods and protein based meals to help your body recover, replenish and rejuvenate itself, you’ll end up worn out and eventually injured. Make sure you’re fuelling your workouts well and fuelling for sufficient recovery.

It’s also been shown that for longevity and disease prevention, one of the key components (in addition to regular exercise and solid sleep) is eating at least 2 cups of vegetables per day. Another benefit of vegetables is the fact that no one in he history of human existence has ever gotten fat from eating too much broccoli, so if you’re having trouble feeling full enough, just fill up on fibrous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, spinach and zucchini. You can use garlic, onion and herbs to give them flavour. just don’t douse them in ranch dressing, mayo, butter or oil, that’ll definitely screw up your diet! Steam your veges and flavour them in ways that add no (or negligible) calories.

7. Measure Your Progress
Fit people measure their progress in useful ways. If they have a physique goal, they take progress pictures. If they want to run faster, they time their runs and push for improvements. If they want to get stronger, they keep a log of their lifts. You get the idea. It’s a very important part of making sure you’re on the right track towards achieving your fitness goals.

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Ditching the ‘All or Nothing’ Attitude in Fitness

My European adventure is drawing to a close and with 7 days ‘til I arrive in Sydney, I have been contemplating my fitness goals.

Part of that is thinking about how I want to evolve and what things I need to let go of, that may have held me back in the past. One of those is an all-or-nothing attitude.

I used to be like that about dieting.

I still struggle a little with it in training. I hate deload weeks and I have been known to get agitated when things don’t go as planned in the gym. I like intense workouts. I like to struggle and triumph. When the latter doesn’t happen, I can get pissed and take my ball and go home… sometimes funny, but never productive!

True fitness is a lifestyle and life has it’s ups and downs. One of the key qualities to being happy, fulfilled and successful is resilience, and you can’t be resilient when you’re rigid, afraid to make mistakes, or get upset when things don’t go 100% your way.

Don’t strive for perfection. Strive for excellence!

Strive to develop good habits and consistency. Strive to be better than you were yesterday. Strive to challenge yourself in some way, every day. Step outside of your comfort zone. Forgive yourself mistakes. They happen.

Those of us prone to an all-or-nothing attitude often end up with just the latter… nothing.

We’re prone to overtraining, because we try to push hard and train hard every single day, thinking more is more. It certainly isn’t.

We’re prone to struggling with our diets because we expect perfection from ourselves, with nary a calorie or macronutrient out of place. And when we can’t achieve that, we fall right off the wagon and binge… guess what? 100% diet adherence is overrated… and not possible without an adjunct obsessive-compulsive disorder. Certainly, eating well 90% of the time is necessary to looking your best, but perfection is a myth and unnecessary.

We’re prone to being competitive, which personally, I tend to find a friendly competitive streak in a person kind of cute 🙂 HOWEVER, not everything is a competition! Not everything is so serious. And no one said you had to be the best at everything or the most of something. Just be you and strive for constant improvement. Stay humble. Keep your ego in check.

Some of us never even get started because we think we have to be “dedicated” and “disciplined” and “train hard” to make any of it worthwhile and it’s all just too intense and overwhelming. So we do nothing. We sit on the couch instead. Well guess what? MOVING YOUR BODY in some way every single day is certainly worthwhile and good for your health, even if you don’t approach things with the razor focus of a professional athlete. Just move! Pick something you like doing and just go with it.

Do something. Walk for 20 minutes a day. Eat a serving of vegetables at dinner every night. Who told you that you had to eat perfectly and train like an Olympic Athlete for it to be worthwhile? Hey, they lied. Eat your veges and move a little each day. Baby steps. Will you look like a fitness model? No. Will you feel better and look better, and be glad you made those small changes? Yes! You will.

Something always trumps nothing.

The people you admire the most in sports and fitness, they have off-seasons, they have intelligently periodized training protocols (i.e: not pushing at 100% capacity all the time), they have diet slip-ups and off-plan meals. They have bad days at training, days where they feel tired. But guess what? They do things MOSTLY right and properly, and stick to their plans the vast majority of the time.

Getting it right over 90% of the time is what gets results and what is important.

Earnest effort is everything. Perfection is a myth. A fitness unicorn! You wanna go chasing unicorns? Be my guest. Have fun with that. Getting great results and maintaining them is a balance between consistent, intelligent training, good nutrition and incorporating all of that into your every day, real life.

Have you had an all or nothing attitude to your fitness? Have you been far too intense in the past or has your attitude kept you on the couch? How have you managed to find YOUR balance?

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Using Good Mornings in your training

No, it’s not just a cheerful salutation for the start of your day! It’s also a highly valuable and under-utilized lift! I love Good Mornings. They’re a hip-hinging, fundamental movement in the family of the squat and the deadlift that strengthens and works the entire posterior chain (more or less all the muscles in your back, bottom and back of legs in layman’s terms).

I love getting my newest clients to do Good Mornings with either no weight or just a wooden stick – it’s great for teaching the hip hinge, popping out the butt, keeping the natural curve of the lower back with your head up, shoulders pinned back. Lessons transferable to all free weight exercises. Plus, it’s a great dynamic warm-up stretch of the hamstrings. You don’t need any weight to feel the stretch.

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The Good Morning from start to finish – Source: Wikipedia.

I’ve recently incorporated heavy Good Mornings into my routine to help with my squat. When I hit my maxes, my upper back has been giving out first on failed lifts. Hinging your torso with a heavy weight on your shoulders can help you develop the strength to keep your torso aligned under a heavy load. I’ve been doing them after my deadlifts or on separate day (never too close to squat day). At Westside Barbell, they do heavy Good Mornings week in, week out and I probably will do so too.

Using lighter loads can also help target the hamstrings more – with heavier loads on this exercise, the glutes get called in to “help” with the load and take the focus away from the hammies. I find few things make my hamstrings ache as much as 3 x 10+ “light” Good Mornings! I’d choose a light Good Morning in my program over a machine hamstring isolation exercise any day of the week.

The Posterior Chain

The Posterior Chain

If you’ve never done a Good Morning before, I would strongly recommend you start out with just a broomstick or no load at all – just practice the movement, focus on keeping your torso as straight as possible, bottom slightly tucked out and moving/hinging forward only at the hip. Then move up to the lightest barbell you can find and always, only use loads where you can complete every rep with good form, namely in this exercise, where you can maintain the natural curve in your lumbar spine (i.e: your low back), chest up, shoulders back and blades tightly packed. There is such a thing as a rounded back Good Morning, but it isn’t something I ever utilize or recommend.

The muscles worked in the Good Morning are the full length of the erector spinae, the glutes and hamstrings, amongst other “core” musculature. The Good Morning is probably the most underrated “core” exercise – you show me someone who can demonstrate a heavy Good Morning with a full range-of-motion and I’ll show you a trainee with a rock solid “core”.

  • Start with your feet about shoulder width apart.
  • Place the barbell on your back. You may need a rack to help you get it into place if the load is too heavy for you to lift up and over onto your back. For the love of God! Set up the safety rails! Especially on heavier sets. They should be set up at the lowest point of your range of motion, about an inch/few cm’s below, so you can easily bail if needed.
  • Stick your butt out, keep your torso straight, chest up, shoulders back and bend at the hips. Your knees should be slightly bent, not locked out or straight.
  • The “correct” range of motion is as far as your flexibility allows with good form. So it’s different for everyone. As soon as you start rounding your back, you should stop. A wider range of motion comes with practicing the movement and working on your mobility consistently.

Have you done Good Mornings before?

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What does ‘lifting heavy’ mean and how do you do it safely?

Lift Heavy Things Up, Put Them Down, REPEAT.

So you are here and reading a blog named “Strong Bodies” because you have some clue that lifting weights has many, many benefits and you also know enough that to get the best results you need to a) challenge yourself b) “lift heavy”…

But what does lifting heavy really mean? It’s kind of vague, isn’t it?

It’s one of those generic pieces of gym advice people often dish out to newbs without much thought to context or implementation. I’m hoping to clarify that for you.

Some people will tell you that lifting heavy means doing repetitions of less than 5. Some people will say it’s 6 – 8. Other people will have other definitions, I’m sure, throwing around words like “powerlifting”, “triples”, “hypertrophy”… making it much more complicated and mystical than necessary, in my opinion.

My definition is choosing a load (e.g: barbell, dumb bell) where you go to almost failure or, failure.

Failure means you can’t even do one more rep. I define “almost failure” as going til you might only have one more rep in the tank, but then you’d be done.

That’s it! That’s what lifting heavy is. It’s lifting to failure or almost failure and giving every set all you got.

Hold nothing back!

You could do a HEAVY 20-rep set… which means every single rep is a grind and you struggle to reach the big 2-0. This isn’t your 1kg pink dumb bell tricep kickbacks I’m talking about. In this context we’re talking about a loaded olympic barbell, and every rep to 15 is no picnic and after 15 makes you wish you were never born. That’s the 20-rep set I’m talking about. That’s considered heavy lifting, but it certainly isn’t a low rep range.

Whether it’s a heavy 5 rep set you’re doing, testing your 1-rep max or a 20-rep set, what matters is the CHALLENGE, the ENGAGEMENT of your mind and muscles and the GRIT it requires for you to finish each repetition with good form. Lifting heavy means lifting with INTENSITY. If there is no challenge, you didn’t have to focus and think about maintaining correct form because the forces of the load are so light that its easy or moderate to get to the end, well then… that certainly wasn’t “lifting heavy”, was it?

Who should be lifting heavy?

My recommendation is anyone and everyone with at least 6 months of consistent weightlifting experience without other contraindications like, pregnancy for instance or any other contraindicated medical issue or injury.

You can start off by doing 6 – 8 heavy reps for 3 sets per exercise, if that is a rep scheme you haven’t used before.

Another option is doing a 5 x 5 arrangement. This means you’re doing 5 sets of 5 repetitions of each exercise – this is super beneficial to the intermediate lifter and will really help you progress in strength and muscular development. For advanced lifters (for the purposes of this article that is someone with 2+ years of consistent experience and you’ve done several phases of 5×5 training), 5×5 doesn’t tend to yield the same progress. You’re better off training for either strength or hypertrophy, neither of which 5×5 is optimal for as a singular goal.

If you’re completely new to weightlifting, I would urge you to spend the first 3 – 6 months working on learning the movements, developing your motor skills, strength and control, strengthening your joints and in fact, not going to failure on each set. Leave one or two reps in the tank, be really strict with your form and focus on performing each exercise as correctly as possible. If it’s an option for you, hiring a knowledgeable in-person trainer for at least a few sessions would be really beneficial. Train in sets of at least 10 reps, you can go as high as 12 – 15. Ideally you would have a trainer and/or at least be following a beginners program that outlines the exercises and rep schemes you should do.

When you’re new, to be frank, pretty much anything you do that isn’t completely idiotic is going to get you a result in the gym. The number of reps you use doesn’t really matter, as long as you’re getting in there and doing the work. Perfect your squat form – you don’t even need any weight to do this. Work on your lunges. Learn to deadlift with a light load, learn how it feels to hinge at the hip and keep your lumbar spine locked and tight. Develop enough core and upper body strength to do some push ups with good form. When you get to the end of your set with the weights you used last week and you could do 3 or more extra reps, increase your weights. Clean up your diet. Be consistent.

Above all else, have fun!

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TRUTH: you honour yourself with a healthy diet and daily exercise.

Have you ever thought about what it means to eat a diet of junk food and live a sedentary life,  when you know that fatty processed foods are bad for you and sitting around on your arse is doing you no favours?

It means you neither value, nor respect yourself. 

honour yourself with a healthy diet and exercise

I’m a  big believer in the saying “actions speak louder than words” and when you are engaging in behaviour you know to be bad for you, possibly with immediate negative outcomes and maybe you even complain regularly that you’d like to lose weight or “get healthy”, but you never really make a serious attempt at doing so…

(my definition of a “serious attempt” is striving to eat better and workout regularly – no shortcuts, wacky diet pills, crazy protocols, GTFOH with that shit)

That means you a) don’t think you’re worth effort b) don’t love and respect yourself enough to make a change.

You may say otherwise, but I’m a big believer in looking at what people do, not what they say. Mind you, this post isn’t about being “skinny” or “sexy”, or “hot”. It’s about eating better and moving more to achieve at least good, if not optimal health.

Think about somebody you love the most in the world. Maybe it’s your spouse, maybe your child, a sibling, best friend… whoever that person is to you, picture them in your mind. Now imagine that they were sick and only you could help them. And the only way you could help them was to eat better and exercise, and in this hypothetical world, the benefits would magically transfer to them and heal them.

Do you think you would hesitate for a second or begrudge them ONE healthy meal or exercise session if it meant that you could help them be healthy and the best that they can be?

Not for a second!

If you love someone, it would be NOTHING to do so! You would surely be honoured to do all that you can to give them the gifts of good health and wellness.

Why isn’t it the same when it comes to yourself? Why aren’t YOU that important to YOU?

As we know, the situation described above is completely hypothetical. No one can do your exercise for you or change your diet for the better but you.

All the power lies with you.

So if you love yourself, you’ll make a change.

If you love those around you, you will take care of yourself so that you can be around to love and care for them.

If you respect yourself, you’ll take the time to do the things that will help you feel better, move better, function better in every possible way

Remember, the first step may just be taking a 20 minute walk every day. You don’t have to eat like a bird and you don’t have to train like a fiend, but you do need to DO SOMETHING.

You can’t love anyone else unless you love yourself first. It all starts with you.

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Strong Bodies No Excuses Workout #2

The no excuses workouts are designed to be done anywhere, at anytime with no equipment! So you have no excuse not to get going and get on with it.

This workout is designed for the intermediate to advanced trainee. So you can follow it to a “t” if you’re reasonably well conditioned and you’ve been training for more than a year. You need a strong core to get this through one as rx’ed and good strength-endurance in the lower body.

Strong Bodies No Excuses Workout #2:

Complete 20 reps of the following exercises on the first round, and on subsequent rounds do 15, 10 and then 5 reps for the fourth and final round. Take about 1 minute rest in between rounds.

1. Burpees
2. Renegade Hip Bridge
3. Push Ups
4. Alternating Forward Lunges
5. Pop Squats

You should also time yourself and try to beat your time to increase the intensity after you’ve done this workout a few weeks in a row. Enjoy!